Professor David Wiltshire, University of Canterbury
Sixty years ago New Zealander Roy Kerr helped revolutionize physics when he discovered the solution to Einstein’s equations defining space around a rotating star or black hole. The Kerr solution became the basis for revolutions first in fundamental physics and later in astronomy and cosmology. More recent discoveries of gravitational waves from colliding black holes and colliding neutron stars, mean that decades of further scientific revolutions are just beginning. David’s lecture will focus on the nature of current and future scientific revolutions, in the broadest possible sense, with examples from cosmology, archaeology and physiology. What are the roles of philosophical concepts, repeatable experiments and mathematical equations in characterizing a scientific “theory”? And what might we expect in future as the pace of change accelerates – with larger data sets, machine learning and artificial intelligence.
After a PhD in Stephen Hawking’s group in Cambridge in the 1980s David held research and teaching positions in Italy, the UK and Australia, before returning to New Zealand, where he is Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Canterbury. He has just been awarded the prestigious 2023 Dan Walls Medal.